Cork County on the Rise: Communities help make Cork a fantastic place to live or visit

Cork County on the Rise: Communities help make Cork a fantastic place to live or visit
Celebrity Chef Lilly Higgins and Mayor of Cork County Cllr Christopher O'Sullivan launching this years Reuse republic which takes place Thursday 24th October 2019 from 2pm to 7pm at County Hall, Cork. Pics by Darragh Kane

Dedicated and effective community groups, organisers, and volunteers are key to hosting the events that bring in tens of thousands of visitors to Cork, writes Christopher O’Sullivan

This is an exciting time for Cork and my position as Mayor of the County of Cork has allowed me to engage directly with the communities that will define our county in the years to come.

I have seen an increase in the number of events, from festivals to community launches to awards and so much more throughout the whole county. One of the marks of Cork County Council’s success as an organisation is public engagement, and what I have seen so far in my term has been incredibly encouraging.

The number of people and organisations engaging with the Mayor’s Office has increased exponentially over the last few years. By working together with communities throughout Cork, we have achieved some amazing feats.

Already this year Cork County Council hosted one of its largest and most important community celebrations; The Anti-Litter Challenge Awards night. Because factors like scenery or amenity are not counted in the anti-litter challenge, any community willing to organise litter picking is in with a chance to succeed.

Some 23 towns and 88 villages entered the competition. Both the performance, and the level of engagement, reflects the strength and drive of communities in Cork. The tireless work of these groups also earned the county 20 medals in the national Tidy Towns competition.

Beyond community-led anti-litter and Tidy Towns initiatives, communities throughout Cork have delivered a phenomenal programme of festivals right up until the beginning of November.

My role as mayor has allowed me to engage with many of these fabulous events and meet the people and communities behind them.

Mindy Simpson and Olive Finn from Twig Refill, Clonakilty's minimal waste store at ReUse Republic event organised by SMILE Resource Exchange in collaboration with Cork County Council.
Mindy Simpson and Olive Finn from Twig Refill, Clonakilty's minimal waste store at ReUse Republic event organised by SMILE Resource Exchange in collaboration with Cork County Council.

Some festivals have a small and local character. Others see a huge influx of tourists from outside of Cork, such as the West Cork Literature Festival, the Mallow Racing Home For Easter Festival, and the current winner of the Chambers Ireland Excellence in Local Government Awards Festival of the Year, the Youghal Medieval Festival.

These events bring in tens of thousands of visitors and establish Cork as a great cultural destination. It’s vital that we continue to leverage these incredible tourism offerings.

Having dedicated and effective community groups, organisers, and volunteers will be a huge benefit as we move forward. Local authorities have a duty to promote and support sustainability and I want to see Cork County Council take the lead in this regard.

We have signed in our Climate Adaptation Strategy and are now preparing a Climate Change Mitigation Plan. We have also supported some incredible initiatives in sustainability and biodiversity.

Recently, we proudly announced a flagship pollinator-friendly meadow in Midleton. Five acres of council-owned land in Midleton Lodge Park was chosen to be left uncut until September, allowing for native plants to flower, which provide food and safe nesting areas for pollinators.

The first year of this project has been hugely successful. Midleton Meadow represents a long-term plan to support biodiversity. Already the field has seen the growth of a variety of wildflowers including the rare Bee Orchid. We have successfully showed a cheap and easy way that landowners can support pollinators.

On top of promoting bio- diversity, another area in which Cork County Council can take the lead is in reuse initiatives. Cork is home to some of the best innovators in sustainable living.

Cork County Council is uniquely placed to bring together different businesses and community groups working in sustainability to facilitate the sharing of information, support and collaboration.

This is the thinking behind our hugely successful ReUse Republic events. This year’s event brought together over 30 individuals, organisations, and businesses from across the reuse sector to exhibit their work, share ideas and build connections.

Hosting public events like this is a great way to empower people to make changes in their lives which can benefit our environment.

Olivia Carey, Carrigtohill at the Artist Martha Cashmans More Clay Less Plastic stall at ReUse Republic event organised by SMILE Resource Exchange in collaboration with Cork County Council.
Olivia Carey, Carrigtohill at the Artist Martha Cashmans More Clay Less Plastic stall at ReUse Republic event organised by SMILE Resource Exchange in collaboration with Cork County Council.

Another area in which Cork County Council is positioned to take the lead is in securing an excellent quality of life for our residents. As life expectancy increases, we have a responsibility to ensure that age is not a barrier to participating in life Cork.

The council has engaged in a number of initiatives aimed at ensuring that Cork is a great place to live, regardless of age.

A new development in Rosscarbery Star Gardens opened earlier this year. There are now a total of 21 housing units in the development, which will provide long-term accommodation for older people.

This was delivered in partnership with Rosscarbery Social Housing Association. This year also saw the delivery of a specialised social housing development for older people at Cuan Barra in Béal Átha an Ghaorthaidh, in partnership with Coiste Tithe Uibh Laoire Teo.

By delivering these projects in partnership with the communities, we are able to meet the local and individual needs of the tenants. Coiste Tithe Uibh Laoire recently won a Community Housing Award from the Irish Council for Social Housing, as did Bandon Geriatric Community Council, with whom Cork County Council has also worked in partnership for the delivery of age-friendly housing.

Cork County Council proudly led a pilot initiative in Mitchelstown earlier in the year which involved using technology to enable elderly and vulnerable people to live independently in their own homes.

The pilot was a collaborative project with Independent Living Ireland (ILI), Amicitia Social Enterprise, Cork City Partnership’s Friendly Call Cork, Nimbus Research Centre in CIT, and Health Innovation Hub Ireland.

This is a fine example of the resources and talent that we have available in Cork and what we can accomplish through collaboration and partnership between the local authority, community groups, and businesses.

It’s vital that we continue to champion sustainability and maintain our work in ensuring Cork is a great place to live for all.

We have so much potential as a county in terms of the strength of our communities and the beauty of our natural heritage.

Securing our communities and our environment will pay dividends as Cork solidifies its position as a great destination for visitors, either holidays, work, education, or investment.

Christopher O’Sullivan is Mayor of the County of Cork

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